The Complete and Utter Failure Of Ohio Charter Schools

Charter schools are in the news again today and it will probably not surprise you to learn they are still dumpster fires:

“even when excluding dropout-recovery schools, the four-year graduation rate of charter schools in Ohio is just under 45 percent, faring worse than public schools in Ohio’s six largest cities. Schools in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Akron and Toledo graduated 73 percent of their students.

Bland headlines (the Dispatch’s headline: Charter school graduation rates way behind Ohio’s urban districts), dispassionately reporting the non-biased facts on charter schools.

These outlets trust that readers will read this and make the leap to understanding: our money is being stolen (literally!) and misused.

The media fails here by assuming that reporting the facts on the issue is sufficient, but that isn’t the biggest problem with charter school coverage.

It’s how media approaches the issue with the assumption that the goal of these schools is to educate our children.

It’s treating these businesses as legitimate educational institutions that are making efforts in good faith, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.

The goal of the charter school push isn’t education.

The goal is to undermine public schools by diverting tax dollars to private efforts.

Doubt that your money is being wasted? Here is a report from the Akron Beacon-Journal from 2015:

No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.

A Beacon Journal review of 4,263 audits released last year by State Auditor Dave Yost’s office indicates charter schools misspend public money nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency.

Since 2001, state auditors have uncovered $27.3 million improperly spent by charter schools, many run by for-profit companies, enrolling thousands of children and producing academic results that rival the worst in the nation.

And the extent of the misspending could be far higher.

Ohio charter schools demonstrably and provably waste public money. This feels confusing given they are fully backed by the Ohio Republican Party, a group that claims to loathe wasted tax dollars.

But if you approach it from the angle that the schools are siphoning money from (mostly urban, mostly minority attended) public schools, then it’s more easily understood.

There is no other explanation that accounts for a system that produces results like the above, plus bribery, state takeovers, illegal land leases and straight up attendance fraud / theft of funds, all with a lack of proper accounting or accountability.

People are not outraged by this at least partially because the media frames the issue poorly.

Ohio has been gifting nearly $1 billion annually to failing charter school efforts, while cutting hundreds of millions of dollars to public schools.

Imagine an educational system that wasn’t driven by ideology, and was instead driven by data and results. It would not look like Ohio’s.

Finally, remember the last levy your local district floated?

It might not have been necessary if state money was going to public schools instead of charters.

The media might not make that connection clear, but when you read news like the above, remember: you paid for that.